I woke up covered in sweat gripping my belly protectively screaming at something to stay away from my baby. When the last vestiges of the nightmare slipped away and I realised where I was, I burst into tears. Never in my life had I missed Thrawn more and never in my life had I felt so scared. Once the crying jag passed I just rested my head upon my knees, hugging them close to my chest trying to remember how to breathe.
The nightmares were almost always the same, ending with me waking while trying to protect my unborn child from some terrible danger I could never recall once I was awake no matter how hard I tried. When I had talked about this with Doctor Thracer he theorised that it was my subconscious fear of not carrying to term but I wasn’t so sure. I had always had bad dreams, some worse than others but these ones were indefinable and insidious. As if some terrible enemy was out there waiting, lurking to create havoc on my life, my world and everything I knew.
Knowing that I was not going to get back to sleep I heaved myself out of the bed, got dressed and made my way down to the small cantina. The night cook on duty, Toryyn Tuary glanced at me knowingly. This was not the first time he had seen me after a bad nightmare and I was sure it wouldn’t be the last.
“Same as usual?”
I nodded and watched as he made me a large cup of something he called a’shai which was warm, creamy, somehow very comforting and didn’t make me sick. I loved the blend of spices he used to make the drink whose recipe had been his mother’s. She had made this drink for him and his brother when they were children to help them sleep.
“How’s the family doing Toryyn?”
“Good, I got word that my sister’s having another baby. I am going to be an uncle again.”
I grinned. “Wow congratulations. How many does this one make?”
“This will be her fourth child.” He smiled and then asked hesitantly, “How are you doing?”
“You mean aside from the terrible sleeping habits? I’m good.” I answered with a smile.
“Glad to hear it.” He said handing me a large mug.
“So what is the latest scuttlebutt?” I asked taking a welcome sip from my a’shai. Toryyn was the best source of base gossip around.
“Marika and joshi are a couple.”
I smiled. “That’s not news, anyone with half a clue could see that was going to happen.”
“True.” Toryyn nodded, “But now it’s official.”
I laughed. It was not unexpected that after a certain amount of time couples would start to happen on the base and while there was no outright directive against it, Thrawn was smarter than that, most people didn’t go out of their way to announce it either. “Sometimes living here is like being in the middle of a bad holo-drama.”
He gave me a look which said ‘and you would know all about that wouldn’t you’. “I did hear a whisper that The Admiral was in the Kessel Sector, near Honoghr but that was a while back, I also heard something went on at Endor.”
“Really?” I raised an eyebrow. “Wonder what he was doing all the way out there.”
He shook his head. “No idea, they don’t give us cooks any real information but the Virulent is orbit maybe there lays your answer.”
“The Virulent?” I asked, “When did they arrive?”
“A couple of hours ago, I had a few of the crew come through here.” He said, “They like my nala pudding it seems.”
I glanced up at the chrono on the wall. “You’re about to get busier, the watch just changed.”
“The hungry hoards wanting breakfast before they go to bed, go figure. I love this time of the morning.” He gave me his sweet one sided grin and nodded at the first group to come through the door. “Show time.”
“Talk to you later, I’m headed to the back lounge to read.” I gave him a little wave and then left before the full watch change crowd came in and things got loud.
I liked the smaller lounge because it was usually quiet and not well used so I could sit in my favourite chair near the window and read without anyone bothering me. Tonight I was all on my own which was nice.
I was currently half way through a book, a set of biographies of renowned Chiss personalities that had been given to me by one of my language students. It was fun to read and I had been pleasantly surprised to find that Thrawn had been considered a “personality” although there wasn’t much written that I didn’t already know. It was fun to read but it also made me miss him more.
I marked my place in the book with my finger and stared mindlessly out of the window wondering what the hell Thrawn was doing in the Kessel Sector. The last I had heard he had returned to Myrkr to destroy what was left of the smuggler base he had found there. Honoghr was Rukh’s home world but I could not come up with any good reason why Thrawn would want to go there.
Rukh had told me once in a rare talk that his home world had been all but destroyed by the Rebellion and that Darth Vader had promised to help rebuild it but I didn’t know more than that. There wasn’t much written about Honoghr in the planetary database and even less about the beings that inhabited it. I guess that neither the Emperor nor Lord Vader had wanted anything public about one of the most ruthless assassins in the galaxy. When Lord Vader had rewarded Thrawn by giving him the Noghri Thrawn had been pretty tight lipped about it. When I had first met Rukh it was not the very best of circumstances but since then we had become friends of a sort, as much as friends was possible with a deadly Noghri assassin. He trained with me occasionally because Thrawn had asked him to but personally I think he enjoyed putting me on my ass. Most of the time I enjoyed the workouts, the Noghri fighting style was singular and beautiful and I had learned a lot. I was so deep in thought that I didn’t hear the door open nor did I notice the person walking up to where I was sitting until he spoke half scaring me out of my seat.
“I was told I could find you in here.” The voice was warm and familiar.
I looked up and smiled. “Ged!”
“Well that’s a smile worth travelling light years for.” He said leaning down to kiss my cheek. I didn’t pull away from him and smiled at his familiarity. It was a good job the room was empty; the gossip mill would run rampant. He pulled up a seat next to mine and sat back in it with a sigh.
“What are you doing here?” I asked, “I wasn’t expecting the Virulent back for weeks.”
“New intel and supplies, it’s a short turn around.” He said evasively with a slight shrug. “So how have you been?”
“Doing okay. Had a bout of the Corellian flu but I’m getting better. I hope that you’ve been vaccinated against it, it’s on the base.”
He grinned, “Already taken care of. You’re up late or should I say early.”
Ged knew all about my nightmares. “Well that explains the shadows under your eyes but not the fact that you are glowing, you look radiant. I guess living here must agree with you.”
It was my turn to shrug. “No one is shooting at me, I don’t get woken up every few hours with surprise drills and the food here is better so I guess that helps.”
He laughed. “I will be sure to tell Remy you said that about his food.”
“Don’t you dare! He was already insulted enough as it was when I wouldn’t touch his version of Corellian Spice cake.”
Ged smiled at the memory. “And then he was about as apologetic as it gets once he found out the reason.”
“Now you know why I call that cake Zaarin’s surprise.”
“You do seem to attract the scyks, especially the older, more influential ones.”
“Was that a dig Admiral Larsen?” I asked with a smile.
“Maybe a small one.” He conceded.
I shrugged. “I cannot help it if older men found me interesting but you know the same could be said for almost all the palace girls. I think older men just love young women.”
“I wouldn’t know.” Ged replied. “I stayed away from that kind of trouble.”
“Until I came along it seems.”
He gave me a sideways look. “Oh Merly you are whole new level of pain in the rear. Palpatine warned me about you.”
Ged nodded. “Mmm, but that’s a story for another time though. I am not here long enough to tell it.”
I just smiled at the familiar bantering. “So how are things going on the campaign front?”
“It’s like an elegant dance.” Ged said with a graceful gesture of his hand. “And you know better than anyone else just how clever Thrawn is at complicated dance moves but the rebs are smart. They seem to manage to get past some of his plans and that crazy old Jedi master Thrawn has working for him is a real piece of work.”
“Have you met him?”
“No, Thrawn keeps our fleets quite separate. He doesn’t want to tip his hand to the rebels that we even exist.” Ged said brushing away a piece of non existent lint from his trousers.
I smiled. “He always keeps his cards close to his chest. It gets annoying after a while” I said. “I don’t doubt that Thrawn can keep his dark-side pet under control though. That’s what his furry little friends from Myrkr are for.”
“Yes and their effects are most unpleasant.”
I nodded knowingly. “Well don’t go down to the sublevels then, the place is full of them.”
“Is that so?”
I shook my head. “You’ll have to ask Thrawn about it all. I am sworn to secrecy.”
“More cloak and saber stuff.” Ged retorted dismissively. “Thrawn’s whole campaign is full of it.” He shook his head, “Well, C’boath is on Jomark for the time being.”
“So what was Thrawn doing at Endor?”
“You heard about that? Aside from dealing with rebels there, he met an old friend, I believe.”
“Ever hear of a smuggler named Kaarde?” Ged asked.
I nodded. “Talon Kaarde, yeah I’ve heard of him. Information is his game, likes to play all sides of the fence depending on who pays best, usually smart enough not to get killed while doing it but he’s not any friend of mine, old or otherwise.”
“Thrawn had him taken prisoner.”
“What? How’d he manage that? Kaarde is about as wily as it gets in the smuggler not wanting to be taken alive category.”
“It’s true. Apparently Kaarde’s new girlfriend gave him up.”
“Kaarde has a girl? That’s news to me, all the gossip usually says is that he was just too busy being the underworld’s new man to have time for a girl, not that many didn’t try.”
“Actually, you know her.” Ged said smugly, “Speaking of palace girls.”
“Now I am intrigued.”
“You remember the Emperor’s favourite courtesan?”
“Oh you’re kidding me.” I said. “Mara Jade is slumming with Talon Kaarde? I thought she was dead. She just vanished after escaping from Ysard’s clutches.”
“Apparently not.” Ged made a face. “She went to Thrawn. Wanted to rejoin the Imperial forces but really was there to bargain.”
“Kaarde’s life for the Katana Fleet.”
“Oh this just gets better and better.” I said, “The Katana Fleet? Give me a break. That’s a fairy tale pilots talk about when they’ve had one too many.”
“Well according to Jade it’s very real and she bargained Kaarde’s life for it.”
I raised both eyebrows. “Wow.” This was an unexpected twist.
Ged’s laughter filled the room. “You said it.”
His laugh was infectious and I giggled until it hurt wincing at the sudden sharp pain in my belly.
“Everything under control?” Ged asked catching my expression.
I took a deep breath, “Yeah just not used to laughing like that.”
“You’re with the wrong guy then.” He said with a smirk.
“Keep trying Admiral.” I grinned at him once the pain had subsided. There was a moment’s silence and then I asked. “So what did you really want to see me about Ged?” and suddenly the atmosphere in the room wasn’t quite so warm any more.